INXS rests its future on Fortune
- Kap Maceda Aguila () - August 13, 2006 - 12:00am
INXS, Switch
Epic, 2006

A shared tale two decades removed:

In May 1981, magnificent Manchester band Joy Division was on the verge of a US tour. In November 1997, magnificent Australian band INXS was on the verge of an anniversary tour.

Neither came to pass, as both their vocalists decided to end their lives that month – Ian Curtis in the kitchen of his home, Michael Hutchence in a Ritz Hotel room in Sydney.

Remaining members of Joy Division took another member (Gillian Gilbert, on keyboards) and reconvened as New Order – taking a radically different direction away from the gloom they purveyed with Curtis.

Following Hutchence’s demise, INXS conscripted Terence D’Arby to do frontman duties for a short set at the opening of Stadium Australia in 1999. Jon Stephens also manned the microphone for the band until the end of 2003.
* * *
Enter Mark "reality TV" Burnett, who masterminds Rock Star: INXS, a globally-televised audition to search for someone to permanently fill Michael Hutchence’s shoes. Viewers are plastered to their tellies for a weekly nail-biter, a la American Idol. Filipinos especially take notice, cheering on the amiable Mig Ayesa, the Manila-born thespian-singer whose family moved to Australia when he was two.

After some 12 weeks of drama, songs and more drama, the last man standing is J.D. Fortune, a one-time Elvis impersonator raised in the Canadian countryside just outside Nova Scotia. Brimming with equal parts talent and chutzpah – to the point of irking and turning off his fellow hopefuls – J.D. nonetheless wows his future bandmates with verve and vocal chops.

INXS wastes no time in coming out with an album to herald its return with the spanking-new vocalist by releasing the aptly entitled Switch – which they expect to propel the group into a post-Michael Hutchence era, testing the band’s continued relevance.

INXS can look back to a full history of success – certainly an advantage at this crucial point of the act’s career. The numbers tell it well: more than 30 million albums sold worldwide, 17 Billboard appearances (seven of which are Top 10), 23 UK hits, 33 Australian hits and six consecutive Top 10 UK and US albums. The band has performed over 4,000 live shows for more than 25 million people in about 50 countries.

The album’s opener, Devil’s Party (remember Devil Inside?), seems to be an attempt at continuity as J.D. takes on the familiar inflection of his predecessor. Depends on how you look at it, this might be a disservice or blessing to the band. But then again, the same songwriting team of the Farriss brothers (accounting for three-fifths of the band personnel) is at work here, so you can’t expect that much of a departure from the familiar. Still, JD should have tried harder to veer away from Michael’s stylings.

The second single, Pretty Vegas, is JD’s signature song, a track he provided the melody and lyrics during the Rock Star run. Perhaps fueled by that particular exposure, Pretty Vegas debuted on Billboard at 37, effectively the highest-charting single debut in the band’s career.

Afterglow
is unmistakably U2 flavored. JD heightens the sensation by teetering on Bono-esque vocals. Hot Girls features a Japanese spiel, and stripped-down guitar.

Perhaps one can contend that INXS, in choosing J.D. Fortune, went with what works. For all his idiosyncrasies of personality, J.D. fits the comfort zone of a band that can never be free from the long shadow of Michael Hutchence.

So, more than just serving notice to the return of INXS, Switch is the band telling us there’s more to be said and sung, and if Michael isn’t available, heck, it wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – stop the rest of the band from creating more music.

INXS performs live in Manila on Aug. 15 at Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City. The one-night concert is staged by Ovation Productions and presented in cooperation with MTV, Star World, Solar Entertainment, Edsa Shangri-La, Top 40 T-Shirts and
The Philippine STAR. Other media partners are Magic 89.9, 99.5 RT, 103.5 K-Lite, RX 93.1, NU107, RJ100 and WLSFM. For ticket inquiries, call Ticketnet at 911-5555.

AMERICAN IDOL ARANETA COLISEUM BAND DEVIL INSIDE EDSA SHANGRI-LA INXS JOY DIVISION MICHAEL HUTCHENCE PRETTY VEGAS ROCK STAR
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